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Andy Parsons

Quit your job, become a... beekeeper

Written by
Danielle Goldstein

Hannah Reeves, 23, apprentice bee farmer with Rowse Honey at The London Honey Company

What first attracted you to working with bees?

‘I’ve always been interested in insects. I studied ecology at university and I did my dissertation on bees. When I left I wanted to do something insect-related and came across this apprenticeship.’ Didnít you need any bee-specific experience? ‘As long as you’re happy to work a lot outdoors with the bees, that’s all you need, really.’

What's a typical working day like?

‘That depends on whether I’m doing beekeeping or production. Production involves extracting the honey, bottling it, labelling and doing all the nice packaging. If you’re beekeeping, you’ll have an early start of 6am or 7am to get the tube to check the bees. We’ve got 12 sites in London, including the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, and the honeys taste quite different.’

Who has the better bees?

‘It’s not the bees that are influencing the honey, it’s what’s in the flowers. In the countryside, it’s crops, wild flowers or hedges, but in London it’ll be trees. There’s one called tree of heaven that produces amazing, light, citrusy honey and I’ve never tasted it anywhere else but London.’

Is getting stung a major hazard?

‘Oh yeah! Some people wear leather gloves, but I prefer wearing thin latex gloves so you can feel what you’re doing more and disturb the bees less. Occasionally you get a grumpy one sting you and it’ll go straight through the glove. Once it’s happened a few times you’re over it.'

Apart from the odd sting, beekeeping sounds like the bee's knees.

‘Bees are so interesting, there are so many different things they can be doing. I saw some bees the other day bringing in propolis – tree sap – which is like glue to weatherproof the hive and I’ve always wondered how they get it off their legs. Then I saw two bees pulling it off another bee’s leg, it was stretching out about two inches and still wasn’t coming off. It was amazing.’ 

Hours: 45hrs per week

Starting salary: £25,000 p/a

Qualifications: Not necessary

Or, why not become a cat rehomer?

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